OpinionsFighting corruption: the biggest challenge for the new Cabinet...

Fighting corruption: the biggest challenge for the new Cabinet in Chișinău

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Almost a month after PAS’s victory in the early parliamentary elections, it has become a norm for every observer/ analyst/ journalist to say that this result is a tremendous chance for the Republic of Moldova, one that – if missed – won’t reappear again too soon.

This assessment is indeed true: PAS has secured a historical win which almost constrains it (and Maia Sandu) to quickly deliver concrete results. And the only result that really matters from an electoral perspective is the improving of the social and economic conditions for the ordinary citizens. PAS will be able to stay in power and resist any attack from the pro-Russian political forces not if the party succeeds to integrate the Republic of Moldova in the EU, but only if it will improve the standards of life for the average Moldovans.

The former party of the president has already announced how it intends to deliver results: by reducing the phenomenon of endemic corruption. At least in theory, the path is correct: without bribe and patronage, the value of foreign direct investment will increase and new jobs will be created. Also, part of the diaspora could choose to return to the Republic of Moldova and open small businesses if bribe and corruption cease to govern the access to medical care, do not influence the law or every other aspect of life.

The road on which the new Cabinet in Chișinău is about to embark is a difficult one. Therefore, if someone or something will derail PAS, it won’t be the Russian propaganda or Russia, but the people working in the public administration and the reluctance to change of those that form client-patron systems: judges, prosecutors etc. – those already deemed gangs by Maia Sandu at the very first session of the new Parliament. As she claimed, a true revolution has to take place in order to eradicate them. 

The only way for such a revolution is the legal way, with full respect for laws and procedures. Otherwise, people like Stoianoglo (the incumbent Prosecutor-general) – who claims that today’s leaders are after him because he’s from an ethnic minority group – will become more and more vocal and will feed a propaganda meant to erode the Cabinet.

The future Cabinet has to expect solid opposition from public servants from ministries and state agencies. They are accustomed to see state bodies as their own personal feuds: management positions are meant to be occupied only through family ties and money connections, the managers have developed the reflex to ignore any idea that doesn’t belong to them or that could really improve the life of ordinary citizens. The public servants that have blocked for the past 30 years the development of the Republic of Moldova will first try to tame the new government, and, if unsuccessful, they will begin to accuse PAS of trying to impose a political control over the administration. The sacking of incompetent and corrupt public servants and the hiring of specialists will determine the gangs to say that the politicians are undermining the institutional stability (in fact, a stability of incompetence and of lucrative family ties). These kind of messages and so-called cries for help will undoubtedly serve as electoral ammunition for the pro-Russian forces which, through the socialist Corneliu Furculiță, have already announced – before even the official nomination of the Cabinet – that the members of the Government have to prepare for a lot of simple motions.

PAS isn’t made of strongmen and this is a good thing: the gangs won’t be able to find a curator, someone ready to control them and use them for his own agenda, granting them – in exchange – the right to keep on stealing and perpetuate the phenomenon of corruption. The gangs have this mentality and hope to find a new political patron. The situation is very well exemplified by the revelations of the Moldovan press on the wrongdoings of the head of the Special Operations Department from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Back in 2019, he was spying the political opposition in order to please the decision makers. These mentalities are not yet a thing of the past, and there are still public servants that can’t wait to become useful and to find new patrons.

Therefore, the new Government has only one chance to succeed against the gangs: impose a new and much harsher legislation (e.g., in order to make it easier to sack incompetent and corrupt public servants) – in fact, this is the only revolution that the gangs fear, a revolution that PAS, with 63 parliamentarians, has the force to go through with.

Most likely, Moscow (or at least part of the Russian elite) is also uneasy with the prospect of a revolution meant to put an end to corruption schemes. The Republic of Moldova will never become a security threat for the de facto existence of Transdniestria, but the new leaders in Chișinău – determined to pursue an anticorruption agenda that could affect criminal interests on both banks of the Dniester -, are definitely a threat for the oligarchs in Tiraspol. Maybe this is how we should understand the recent declaration of the Russian senator Viktor Bondarev who claimed that Russia is ready to invade Odessa and march to Tiraspol in order to liberate the Russian military forces from Transdniestria, if these Russian forces will suffer from a blockade (?) from Chișinău, Kiev and NATO (sic!).

Maia Sandu’s and the Government’s relation with Transdniestria seems to be very important not only for the politicians in Tiraspol and Moscow, but also for some so-called „researchers”, that signal their eagerness to know more about the future of the relation between Chișinău and Tiraspol. Recently, in a conference held in Bender (28-29 June), several analysts wondered how will Maia Sandu act on the Transdniestria dossier. Some assumed that Sandu will not be as harsh as the Ukrainian president. Such opinions are most likely a way of signaling to Sandu/ the Government, that, as long as they don’t act against Transndniestrian interests, the conflict will remain frozen.

In the fight against corruption and for the Government’s plans to improve the standards of living for the Moldovans, Bucharest and Brussels can play a role of utmost importance. Their support isn’t only about expertise and money, but also about rapid deployment of goods in times of crises – crises that will most likely be orchestrated by those threatened by the anticorruption agenda of the new Cabinet. Such a crisis is already unfolding in the Republic of Moldova: the fuel shortage in the market, in the middle of the agricultural season, generated by importers of petroleum products as a result of PAS’s efforts to eliminate cartel-type agreements on the market.

Recently, in the Moldovan public space, an idea keeps circulating that one of the challenges for the stability of the Republic of Moldova is a possible president-prime minister conflict. At this moment, such a situation is quite unlikely: i) as we mentioned, PAS does not have strongmen/ leaders thirsty for power, neither Gavriliță nor Grosu have the necessary electoral capital needed in order to try to separate PAS from Maia Sandu; ii) PAS is known as the pro-presidential party – no party leader will try to challenge the authority of Maia Sandu, because this is the most simple way to a rapid political downfall; iii) the leaders from PAS will take no distance from Maia Sandu unless they want to commit political suicide: not only would they lose the government, but they would later become victims of the gangs they are now trying to eliminate. The biggest challenges for the new Government in Chișinău are of an internal nature and derive from the assumed objective of fighting corruption. In the absence of a black swan scenario, such as a global economic crisis like the one in 2008, which would cause the EU / US to turn the attention away from Chișinău, the main challenges for the new government will be of internal nature and will be caused by the ambition of dismantling patronage schemes that have been operating for 30 years and stretch from Chișinău to Moscow.

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